Tag Archives: Christmas

Christmas Crafts: How to make Pretty Paper Baubles

It’s the week before Christmas and I’ve got a million things to do. One of them is to plan some things for me and the boy to do on Friday. We have a whole day to ourselves before the madness begins, and he’s already requested crafts and baking. Those I can do. I’ve been wanting to try to make some paper baubles for a few weeks, I finally had the chance this morning.

These paper baubles are so simple to do, but they look pretty smart and I’m sure they cutting and sticking will appeal to my son. Paper bauble making will definitely be on our agenda for Friday.

Christmas Crafts: How to make Pretty Paper Baubles

How to make Pretty Paper Baubles

You will need:

Coloured or patterned paper
A glass
A pencil
Scissors
A glue stick
A length of ribbon

How to make Pretty Paper Baubles:

You’ll need coloured paper, I used plain red paper and a patterned red paper which I thought would work well together. On your coloured paper, draw around the rim of the glass to make a circle. You’ll need at least 8 circles to make your bauble.

Cut your circles out and fold them in half. If you’re using patterned paper, the pattern needs to be in the inside of the fold.

Christmas Crafts: How to make Pretty Paper Baubles

Using the glue stick, glue the folded halves together; if you’re using plain and patterned paper, alternate them. Make sure your circles are well stuck together, you might want to press them under a heavy book for half an hour to make sure they’re firmly glued together. I found it best to make two halves of the bauble before putting the ribbon on.

To fix the ribbon in place, give the inside half of one side of your bauble a really good rub with the glue stick. Lay your ribbon in place and having given the other half of the bauble a good rub with the glue stick, press the two sides together. Your bauble is complete and ready for hanging up on the tree.

It’s as simple as that!

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How to make Pretty Paper Baubles

How to plan an absolutely effortless Christmas Dinner

In a couple of weeks time families will be sitting down to enjoy Christmas dinner together. Christmas dinner is a real culinary highlight, it’s essentially the best roast dinner ever. Every family has their own favourites, some have beef or goose, most have turkey; I like Yorkshire puddings and several different types of stuffing. But one thing everyone has in common is Christmas dinner cooking nerves.

I take it in turns to host Christmas Day with my brother, this year is his turn, last year it was mine. I’ve been cooking Christmas dinner by myself since I was about 16. The two things that make it tricky are juggling everything for oven and hob space and getting everything cooked and ready at the same time.

How to plan an absolutely effortless Christmas Dinner

Each year there are typically around 8 people sat around our table for Christmas dinner. Out of this number, two are vegetarians and one of those has a number of intolerances to take into account. The meat eaters are very traditional, but whatever number of chipolatas your family eats, we have to double it. There’s a lot to juggle.

Typically our Christmas dinner includes –
  • Turkey
  • Veggie alternative, often a pie of some sort
  • Yorkshire puddings
  • Roast potatoes
  • Roast parsnips or sweet potatoes
  • Sprouts (obviously)
  • Carrots
  • Red cabbage
  • Stuffing – two kinds
  • Meat gravy
  • Veggie Gravy
  • Bread sauce

That’s just for the main course. We usually have a starter of soup and bread rolls and pudding is a selection of options (because each one of us is fussy) including Christmas pudding, mince pies, chocolate pudding, ice cream, and a selection of boozy creams and sauces. We also offer a cheese board and mints. It’s a huge meal!

Last Christmas I sat down and thought about it. I didn’t want to spend my Christmas Day stuck in the kitchen peeling sprouts and being a skivvy for everyone. I wanted to enjoy Christmas morning with my family and not have too much stress. With a bit of forward planning and prep the day before I managed to pull off my most relaxed Christmas in years.

Here’s what I did. I looked at what food I would be serving and planned what I could cook the day before and what would be better cooked on the day. Most of the food could be cooked ahead of time and warmed through before serving, even the roast potatoes. So this is what I did.

Turkey

This had to be cooked on the day, but that’s fine. Getting ahead of myself meant there was plenty of oven space for it. We also got a turkey crown from the butchers which cut down the cooking time by quite some margin.

How to plan an absolutely effortless Christmas Dinner

Veggie alternative

Last year I served a nut roast, because I love nut roast. I found a nice ready made one and cooked that on Christmas Day.

Yorkshire Puddings

Yorkshires really need to be made just before serving, there are no cheats here. Also, there’s no shame in buying the ready-made ones. Yorkshires can be tricky and who needs the added pressure on Christmas Day?

Roast Potatoes

I’ve been cooking my roast potatoes on Christmas Eve for years. Everyone has their own way of doing them, I like fluffy potatoes cooked in groundnut oil, but cook them however you prefer. Take them out of the oven when they’re starting to colour, remove them from the roasting tin and put them on a cooling rack with some kitchen towel underneath. Leave them to cool, once they’re cool, put them as they are on a plain baking tray with no extra oil. They’ll take an extra 20-30 minutes to warm through and crisp up on Christmas Day, but they’re really crisp, fluffy inside and because they’ve not sat in oil for too long they’re not as oily as they could be.

Roast parsnips or sweet potatoes

Just like the roast potatoes, you can pre-cook your parsnips or sweet potatoes ahead of time. They come out just as good as freshly cooked ones, just do what I did with the roast potatoes.

Sprouts

If you’ve not put these on to boil at the end of summer, you might as well cancel Christmas. Not really, but it’s the old joke. Sprouts aren’t great re-heated, so I leave them to cook on the hob on Christmas Day. It’s worth allowing a bit of extra time for them to cook because somehow vegetables always take much longer to cook when you’ve got guests waiting.

Carrots

Carrots really lend themselves to re-heating. I did almost all of my veg prep on the morning of Christmas Eve, all the peeling and chopping and par boiling and roasting. I boiled up my carrots with a bay leaf and once they were almost cooked through, I drained them, put them in a microwavable dish with a knob of butter and covered them with cling-film. Just before serving, I gave them a 5 minute blast in the microwave, a stir to coat everything in the little knob of butter and we had perfect carrots.

Red cabbage

I generally cook my red cabbage in the slow cooker, but I follow this recipe. Instead of cooking it on the hob I use the slow cooker, yes it takes a few hours more, but it frees some precious kitchen space and it’s the kind of thing which can happily sit and more or less look after itself. Last year I made this on Christmas Eve, then turned my slow cooker on low on Christmas morning, by the time Christmas dinner was being served it was heated through and delicious.

Stuffing

I love a good stuffing and as a vegetarian they are a good filling addition to my plate. I have traditionally used packet bought stuffings and pimped them up by stirring a spoon or two of cranberry sauce though before baking, but last year I made two different stuffings from scratch. Yes, it did take a bit more time, but they were so much tastier and the texture was lighter and less gluey. I’d urge you to find some time to make your own if you can. It was remarkably simple, especially if you’ve got a food processor to do the chopping for you. I made my stuffings on Christmas Eve and they just needed baking in the oven on the day. I’m converted to homemade stuffing now.

Meat & Veggie Gravy

I am a big old cheat when it comes to gravy. Sometimes I make my own, but even with my plan-ahead precision, Christmas Day is too hectic for me to be faffing about too much. You can either make your gravy ahead of time and freeze it, or go to your local shop and buy a tub of fresh ready-made gravy and heat it up on the day.

Bread Sauce

Bread sauce is one of my favourite things about Christmas Dinner. Weirdly only my husband and me really like it, so it’s not something I devote too much time to. I’m happy to cheat, cheat, cheat with bread sauce. Buy a fresh tub of it from a good shop, bang it in the microwave and serve. Half the table will pull their face at it anyway, whether you’ve spent an hour stirring a pan or 2 minutes waiting for the mircowave to ping.

I think Christmas Dinner is all about picking your battles. For me, freshly made stuffing is really worth it, but I don’t need to stress of flat as a pancake Yorkshire puddings on Christmas Day. My stress-free Christmas dinner planning was noticed, gone were fraught scenes in the kitchen with me looking hot and bothered, instead I served a very good dinner with all the cool control of a northern Nigella.

Next year it’s my turn to cook Christmas Dinner and I know that I’ll do exactly the same again. Maybe I’ll cook my gravies from scratch and freeze them, but spending Christmas Eve morning doing all the prep and most of the cooking is time very well spent.

Do you have any top tops for an effortless Christmas dinner?

How to plan an absolutely effortless Christmas Dinner

9 ideas for Christmas drinks for the whole family

If there’s one time of the year we all enjoy drinking something a little special, it’s Christmas. Whether you like a boozy tipple, or you’re after something non-alcoholic but still festive; I’ve pulled together a list of seasonal suggestions for Christmas drinks and there really is something for all the family to enjoy.

Alcoholic Christmas Drinks

From Snowballs with Grandma, fizz with friends and mulled wine round the fire; bring some Christmas cheer with this selection of boozy favourites.

Mix things up with some deliciously warming Mulled Apple Cider from Daisies and Pie. Mulled cider makes a real change from mulled wine; lighter, sweeter and you can swap the cider for apple juice if you’re mulling for the whole family.

9 ideas for Christmas drinks for the whole family

This Christmas Hot Punch from Susan Earlam is full of festive flavours, including cranberry, amaretto and spices. It’s a delicious sounding drink, perfect to drink in front of the fire.

Devotees of G&T might like to customise their gins by steeping their own, I’ve got recipes for Quince Gin and Parma Violet Gin on my blog, and very nice they are too.

If you want to jazz up a simple glass of festive fizz, we’ve been trying Pop A Ball which are little tubs of bursting bubbles and drink shimmers which you spoon into your fizz. Pop A Ball products are suitable for vegans, vegetarians and coeliacs. They are also are also free from dairy, nuts, eggs and soya.

Non-Alcoholic Christmas Drinks

I’ve got lots of friends who don’t drink alcohol, but why should they miss out on Christmas drinks? I always think it’s nice to make something the whole family can enjoy too. Here are some suggestions for non-alcoholic Christmas drinks for all the family.

After a chilly day riding a sledge, or taking the dog on a winter walk, nothing warms you up like a nice steaming mug of hot chocolate, Daisies and Pie has created this delicious sounding recipe for Peanut butter hot chocolate, just the thing for peanut butter nuts like me!

9 ideas for Christmas drinks for the whole family

For mulled wine fans who are cutting down on their intake, this Vimto Mulled Wine recipe is a great way to still enjoy all the seasonal spices of mulled wine, but swerving the alcohol content. It’s also delicious because it’s based on Vimto.

Claire over at She-Eats is entirely alcohol-free these days and she’s got some great suggestions for booze free Christmas drinks over on her blog, as well as this delicious sounding Cranberry and Pomegranate Christmas Cocktail.

Fruity drinks, juices and cocktails are a great way to grab a winter vitamin boost, Jenny from The Brick Castle has got a selection of healthy juice recipes on her blog which would be a delicious and healthy way to start off your Christmas morning

Whatever you and your family like to drink over Christmas, there are lots of new and interesting ideas to try.

What’s your favourite festive tipple?

9 ideas for Christmas drinks for the whole family

Our Real Christmas Tree from Christmas Forest

December is upon us, but regardless of whether you’re a put a tree up at the start of the month, or a leave it until the last minute tree putter-upper; if you’re going for a real Christmas tree, then at some point you’ll have to find one and buy one.

For us, December is always incredibly busy. It’s harder than you’d think for us to find a couple of hours where we are all free to be able to go and buy a tree together. Don’t get me wrong, it’s lovely to go and choose a tree; but the real magic is always in decorating the tree and seeing it all lit up.

Our Real Christmas Tree from Christmas Forest

This year we’ve dispensed with the stress and had our tree delivered instead. Our Scottish grown tree has come from The Christmas Forest which has 10 pop-up Christmas stores in London where families can go and pick their own tree in London, or they can deliver it nationwide.  

Our tree is a 6ft Nordmann Fir, which is non-drop and exactly the kind of tree we normally go for. They have trees in all sizes up to 8ft  (12ft on request) with a range of different pine trees to choose from. I was a little worried that we might get a tree which wasn’t the perfect Christmas Tree shape we all dream of, but I had no need to worry. The trees are trimmed into shape as they grow and ours was just perfect.

You can choose optional extras, like a Christmas Tree stand, lights and wreaths too. We went for a new Christmas Tree stand, this holds water and helps keep your tree fresh.

Our Real Christmas Tree from Christmas Forest

Our tree arrived bright and early on the day we’d chosen for delivery. It was well wrapped in netting and plastic with a stick attached to the top to stop the top part from getting damaged in transit. All we had to do was cut a bit off the bottom, pop it in the stand and decorate it.

They also offer a tree collection service at the end of the season, with recycling option in London area. The Christmas Forest support the charity Tree Aid, who plant one tree in Africa for every one they sell. Through Tree Aid they have planted over 230,000 trees in the drylands of Africa.

Our Christmas Tree decorations are mostly a selection of things we’ve bought and made over the years; babies first Christmas; things I’ve made with Ben; precious baubles from my own childhood Christmas Tree and things we’ve been given by special people. It’s never a stylish tree, but it’s always one full of happy memories and love, which to us is just right.

Our Real Christmas Tree from Christmas Forest

If you want to take some of the stress out of Christmas, getting a real Christmas Tree delivered is a real godsend. It’s been such a help to have it delivered and it’s one very big thing off my festive to do list.

For more information about The Christmas Forest, or to order your Christmas Tree from them, visit their website.

Disclaimer: We were sent our Christmas Tree for review purposes. All images and opinions are our own.

25 Brilliant Children’s Christmas Books

Christmas is made for books. Is there anything nicer than snuggling up with your children at bedtime and reading a Christmas story with them? If you’ve every toys with doing the Book Advent thing, or if you just want some inspiration for some new festive reading, then you’re in luck; I’ve gathered together a list of 25 great children’s books about Christmas.

25 Brilliant Children's Christmas Books

They’re are books for tiny ones and not so tiny ones, but absolutely something for everyone. There are modern classic and classic Christmas books we remember from our own childhood. There’s a book for every day leading up to Christmas, what are you waiting for?

25 Children’s Books about Christmas

  1. The Snowman by Raymond Briggs
  2. Father Christmas by Raymond Briggs
  3. Stick Man by Julia Donaldson
  4. Letters from Father Christmas by J.R.R Tolkien
  5. The Night Before Christmas by Clement Clarke Moore
  6. The Jolly Christmas Postman by Allan and Janet Ahlberg
  7. The Best Christmas Present in the World by Michael Morpurgo
  8. Father Christmas Needs a Wee by Nicholas Allan
  9. How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss
  10. Construction Site on Christmas Night by Sherri Duskey Rinker
  11. Kipper’s Christmas Eve by Mick Inkpen
  12. Mog’s Christmas by Judith Kerr
  13. Dear Santa by Rod Campbell
  14. Jesus’ Christmas Party by Nicholas Allan
  15. Father Christmas Comes Up Trumps by Nicholas Allan
  16. Dream Snow by Eric Carle
  17. My First Christmas by Jan Pienkowski
  18. The Polar Express by Chris van Allsburg
  19. The Tailor of Gloucester by Beatrix Potter
  20. The Story of Holly and Ivy by Rumer Godden
  21. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by CS Lewis
  22. Christmas at the Toy Museum by David Lucas
  23. Christmas Eve at the Mellops’ by Tomi Ungerer
  24. A Boy Called Christmas by Matt Haig
  25. The Christmas Bear by Ian Whybrow 

What is your favourite Christmas book? What Christmas book does your family enjoy reading the most? Is it a classic or a modern story? I’d love to know.

25 Brilliant Children's Christmas Books

Review: The Lanterns at Chester Zoo

With the nights drawing in and Christmas just around the corner, we’ve been filling our diary with lots of festive fun. Top of the list was The Lanterns at Chester Zoo; an evening of magic and sparkle, full of lights and with something special around every corner. I’m not even exaggerating.

Regular readers will know that we are massive fans of the Just So Festival which is organised by Wild Rumpus. Wild Rumpus have sprinkled their magic all over Chester Zoo and The Lanterns and it’s a real multi-sensory experience.

Review: The Lanterns at Chester Zoo

Tickets are timed entry, so there’s an even flow of people throughout; it’s busy but not uncomfortably so. As you make your way to the entrance there are people flying huge neon butterflies and giant snails scooting about the place to entertain the kids and give you a little hint of what is to come.

Review: The Lanterns at Chester Zoo

Once through the gate you step into the Garden of Delight and you’re immediately transported into an illuminated magical world full of giant flowers and colourful lights. Make sure you make your way to the people who are giving out lanterns; the children get a little bucket lantern with an LED tealight and each family gets a larger lantern to carry too. It’s a lovely sight, looking ahead to see the makings of a lantern parade ahead of you.

Review: The Lanterns at Chester Zoo

Marvel at the giant giraffes, lions, elephants and tigers of the Moonlit Meadow. Meet the friendly ostrich and emu in Cloud Cuckoo Land, there’s so much to wonder at. I loved watching my son’s face as we walked around, he was in awe. Go through the Northern Lights where you can say hi to Father Christmas and meet some illuminated reindeer, you’ll soon find the food market where you can have something to eat and drink to set you on your way.

Review: The Lanterns at Chester Zoo

It was at the market we bumped into some friends and we carried on our journey together. The Enchanted Woodland was just that; with people operating flying barn owls, squirrels and deer, the trees were all lit up and it took my breath away. Around the corner you’ll find a snowy wonderland; with snow machines pumping out snow-showers, much to the absolute delight of everyone there. I confess we hung around that area for quite a while because it was just so lovely.

Review: The Lanterns at Chester Zoo

The Wonderland area was a space dedicated to Alice in Wonderland, complete with a giant rabbit and the Cheshire Cat. One of my favourite areas was Rainforest Glow, which just took my breath away. There were giant rainforest flowers hanging from the ceiling, glowing in the lights, plus illuminated rainforest sloths and grubs.

Review: The Lanterns at Chester Zoo

The Ice Kingdom was a great way to finish off the journey. The kids were queuing up to feed the lantern penguins fish and each were given special glasses to look at the lights through which turned all the lights into twinkling rainbows. We were sad to leave. I want to live in The Lanterns.

I really don’t want give too much away about the whole experience, but around each corner you’ll find something really special. It’s festive without being too overtly Christmassy. You will see Father Christmas and some of his elves in passing, but it’s really more about the lights, lanterns and illuminated sights. It’s a real sensory treat from start to finish. We were in awe from start to finish and I’m really ready to fill my own home with sparkle.

In terms of accessibility, the whole trail is on footpaths. There are no steps or stairs and if you’re pushing a wheelchair or a buggy, you should be fine. There aren’t a great many places to sit down, apart from near the food market, so you might want to consider that. It took us around 2 hours to walk around.

There are timed admissions between 4pm-7.45pm and it closes at 9pm. Children’s tickets are from £10-£15 and adult tickets from £12-£17.50.

For more information or to book your tickets visit the Chester Zoo website.

Review: The Lanterns at Chester Zoo

We were invited guests of Wild Rumpus and Chester Zoo. All images and opinions are our own.

Five Natural Christmas Decorations for your home

Christmas naturally lends itself to crafts. This year I’ve felt like shunning some of the glitter and plastic and decorating the house with more natural Christmas decorations. Not only to they look pretty good, they help make the house smell a bit more festive. Here’s a rundown of five natural Christmas decorations we’ve made this Christmas.

Five Natural Christmas Decorations for your home

A Pomander

Pomanders have been used from the medieval period as a way of perfuming the air. They are oranges, studded with cloves and tossed in aromatic spices, when dried they give off a deliciously festive smell. They are easy to make and if you’re looking for something especially mindful to make, then I can hand on heart say that making a pomander is pretty perfect for that.

Five Natural Christmas Decorations to make at home

They’re very easy to do and a popular thing to make with children. They’re best made ahead of time to give them time to dry out. I used this Pomander kit from Steenburgs which costs £3.50 and there are enough cloves and spices for two pomanders. It’s excellent value and works out cheaper than buying everything you need at a supermarket (I did a few sums on the back of an envelope).

To make them you tie a long length of ribbon around the orange like you would tie up a parcel. Using a skewer or another sharp pointy object, pierce little holes into the orange peel and push the cloves into the holes. The closer the cloves are the better. Once your pomander is covered in cloves, toss it in a mixture of cinnamon and orris root powder and leave it is a warm place for around a month to dry out.

Five Natural Christmas Decorations to make at home

They’re lovely to make and my craft group are getting together next week to drink wine and make Christmas pomanders.

A Dried Orange Garland

Dried citrus slices are a common sight at Christmas time. Whether they’re hanging from a tree, adorning a wreath or part of a garland, they give a natural splash of colour. It’s really easy to dry out orange slices (or other citrus fruit slices).

Five Natural Christmas Decorations to make at home

To make your dried orange slices, all you need to do is slice them as thinly as you can, lay them out on a cake cooling rack and pop them in an oven at 120°. Turn them over every 20 minutes or so and bake until they’ve pretty much dried out. This will take 2-3 hours. They will continue to dry out for a few days after you’ve taken them out of the oven, so don’t worry if they’re not completely dry.

You will need:
Dried oranges, sliced thinly
Red embroidery thread
A needle
Star Anise
A glue gun

For this craft I took some red embroidery thread and a large needle. I made a hanging loop at one end and then threaded the needle through one side of the dried pith, round the back and out of the front of the other side of the pith. I continued this with each slice so the thread was behind each orange slice. Once I’d threaded them all on the red thread, I made a hanging loop at the other end.

Five Natural Christmas Decorations to make at home

Using my glue gun I glued some star anise onto alternate orange slices and hung the garland where lights could shine through them. Once the tree is up they’ll be hung on the tree in front of fairy lights. You can make your garland as long or as short as you wish, mine was five slices long.

A Dried Orange Decoration

These are lovely, and if you’re drying citrus slices for the garland, then it’s worth saving a few to make these pretty little things to hang on your tree.

Five Natural Christmas Decorations to make at home

You will need: 
Dried orange slices
Ribbon
Star Anise
Glue gun

Take your dried orange slice and carefully make a small slit in the pith with a knife. Thread a piece of ribbon through, make a loop and tie a knot in it.

Using the glue gun, glue a piece of star anise to the centre of the orange slice, leave it to dry for a minute and then it’s ready to be hung up in front of a twinkly tree light and admired.

Tied Cinnamon Sticks

These are a Christmas classic. Three cinnamon sticks tied together with a nice ribbon and hung on the tree. For each one, take three cinnamon sticks and a piece of ribbon, tie the ribbon tightly around the sticks and knot the ribbon, then tie a nice bow. I then took some invisible thread, threaded it through the ribbon and tied the thread so it could be hung from a tree. Simple but effective.

Five Natural Christmas Decorations to make at home

Cinnamon Stick Tealight Holder

If you love a glue gun, then this craft is for you. Using a nice clean jar which you know is big enough to generously hold a tealight, glue cinnamon sticks around the jar using your glue gun. Leave the glue to dry for a few minutes before using. You may want to finish it off nicely with a festive ribbon tied around it, it’s up to you. It’s simple, looks great and could be the start of a lovely natural centrepiece for the Christmas table.

Five Natural Christmas Decorations for your home

There are three lovely ideas for five natural Christmas decorations you could make. With some cinnamon sticks, star anise, cloves and a selection of citrus fruits, you could adorn your home with beautiful and natural Christmas decorations this year. What will you make?

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Five Natural Christmas Decorations to make at home

Review: Valley Mill Christmas Candles

As soon as the clocks go back at the end of October, I start lighting scented candles in the evening. There’s something about having a few flickering candles which make the place feel cosier and warmer. As November moves into December, the candles I burn move from autumnal apples and cinnamon to Christmassy scents. This week I’ve been burning three new scents from Valley Mill in Wales, and very lovely they are too.

Year round, Valley Mill sell their popular range of Tapestry Tin candles in a variety of different scents. Each candle has a 30 hour burn time and they have been handmade in Wales using the finest quality soy wax. This gives them a longer burn time and better scent throw.

Review: Christmas Candles from Valley Mill

Each tin costs £10.95 and they come is a range of different scents. I’ve been burning three of the Christmas scents and although it’s only November, they’ve been really putting me in the mood for Christmas!

Holly Berry – This is a really festive candle. Take the lid off the tin and you can smell Christmas trees and holly wreaths and all things good about Christmas. This would be great to burn in the same room as your tree, especially if you’ve got an artificial one. The holly berry tapestry tin candle is probably my favourite!

Chestnuts – Chestnuts roasting on an open fire is one of the iconic scents of Christmas. This handmade soy wax candle is really evocative of roasted chestnuts. The smell of this lovely candle makes my mouth water. I really must buy some chestnuts this Christmas!

Cranberry Gin – This attractive candle is wrapped in a festive red tapestry print and when lit quickly fills the room with a fruity Cranberry Gin scent. It’s not overpowering and it’s actually quite a refreshing fragrance. It’s got festive hints, but you could happily burn this throughout autumn and into winter.

Review: Christmas Candles from Valley Mill

There are many more delicious sounding Tapestry Tin Candles in the Valley Mill range, including; Amaretto, Welsh Cake, Spiced Apple and Black Orchid.

The Valley Mill candles are well priced and would make a lovely gift for a candle lover. I really like these kinds of candles in tins, they’ve got just the right amount of burn time and I think tins look smart too.

For more information, visit the Valley Mill website.

Disclaimer: We were sent a selection of candles from Valley Mill for review purposes. All images and opinions are our own.

What to do on Christmas Eve

Tomorrow is Christmas Eve and the flurry of shopping for presents and food is all but over for another year. It’s a day we try to pause the chaos a little and spend some time together as a family. We will have some preparation and thing to do, but being together is a priority for us. If you’re wondering what to do on Christmas Eve, then here are our suggestions.

Family Things To Do

We put together a Christmas Eve box which arrives on Christmas Eve. It’s packed full of lovely things including new PJs, a Christmas DVD, some Christmas books and nice nibbles. We curl up on the sofa for an hour or two and watch the DVD and just chill out. It’s lovely and a great way to change gear on the Christmas chaos and just wind down.

Crosby Beach

Go for a nice long walk. On Christmas Day we are mostly busy busy and stuck in the house. If the weather is reasonable, a good long walk on Christmas Eve is a great way to tire the kids out. It’s good to get some fresh air and burn off a few calories in anticipation of the feast to come.

More organised people will have bought tickets to a panto or a Christmas show like Elf The Musical. Going to a show together can be a really special way to spend Christmas Eve as a family.

Christmas Eve is a time for singing carols and feeling festive. Every Christmas Eve we trot off to our local church to take part in the Christingle Service. The service is so popular at our local church that they now have three services to accommodate the hundreds of children and families to come along on Christmas Eve.

What to do on Christmas Eve

For older children and adults, the Midnight Mass service is a beautiful way to start off the Christmas celebrations. It’s a little moment of stillness and calm, and the perfect place to belt out some Christmas carols. I love it.

You can find information on services local to you here.

Christmas Wrapping

Sensible people will have done this days ago, but *waves* I still have piles of unwrapped presents taunting me from the wardrobe. I know this will be done in dribs and drabs throughout the day but SODS LAW dictates that I will either run out of wrapping paper or sellotape. This has happened before, mostly because my husband always insists we’ve got too much wrapping paper already and then it turns out we have none. This is always discovered at 4pm on Christmas Eve. This will not happen to me this year. I have bulk bought both of these items, so much so that we may well never need to buy them ever again.

Preparation Preparation Preparation

I know some people cook their whole Christmas dinner on Christmas Eve; plate it up and just re-heat it on the day. There’s a lot of sense in that, but Christmas Day wouldn’t be the same to me without juggling for space in the oven, carving the turkey at the table and steaming the pudding.

I do however like to do some prep the day before. I will be roasting the potatoes and parsnips in advance, then on Christmas Day I can just put them on trays in the oven for half an hour and they crisp up beautifully.

This year I’m making stuffing from scratch (a departure for me as I’ve always been a packet stuffing kind of girl). I’ll also peel and prep the veg ready to be cooked on Christmas Day. There is lots to do; but if you’re methodical and you do as much as you can beforehand then it’s very doable!

Treats For Father Christmas

The last thing we do before bedtime is leave a mince pie, a small dram of whisky and a sprinkling of oats for Father Christmas and the reindeer. We make sure our stockings are hung up and we hurry upstairs to bed, hopefully for an early night.

What to do on Christmas Eve

It’s a busy day and a busy night, but spending time together is what Christmas is all about isn’t it. Merry Christmas to you and thank you for reading my blog.

What to do on Christmas Eve

Crafts: Make Your Own Christmas STEM Toys

Christmas is a time for crafting and creating with the kids. We love doing Christmas crafts and we were excited when we heard that ex Blue Peter presenter and craft queen Konnie Huq, had partnered with the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) to create a selection of homemade STEM toys for Christmas.

Crafts: Make Your Own Christmas STEM Toys

Konnie Huq has put her Blue Peter powers to practice for a good cause, making Britain’s most popular Christmas toys at home for a fraction of the cost. The Christmas STEM toys she has created include –

  • Dissolving egg
  • Magnetic slime
  • Icosahedron bauble
  • Marble run
  • Balloon boat
  • Bouncy balls
  • Smartphone projector
  • Living gingerbread house
  • Kaleidoscope

Konnie has put together a set of free to download how-to instructions for all of the above crafts.

Konnie, who spent over ten years craft-making on Blue Peter, is supporting a campaign by the Institution of Engineering and Technology to inspire more children to consider careers in engineering. The toys are designed to make learning about science, tech, engineering and mathematics (STEM) more accessible and affordable. These handmade STEM toys – which include a dissolving egg, magnetic slime, a kaleidoscope and even a smartphone projector – are educational, as well as fun.

Making your own slime is so popular right now, but we thought we would try something a little different. We really liked the idea of building our own living gingerbread house.

Crafts: Make Your Own Christmas STEM Toys

Make your own living gingerbread house

You will need:
A number of plain sponges
Scissors
Toothpicks
Small plate
Seeds
Spray bottle (clean)

How to make a living gingerbread house
Choose one or two sponges to be your base. Fix them together with a cocktail stick, remember these are sharp so be careful of your fingers.

Choose more sponges to be the walls. Cut one sponge in half across the longest
side (i.e. make two regular rectangles, not two long strips) and fix those onto the shorter sides of your base with cocktail sticks. Fix two sponges onto the longer sides of the base.

Crafts: Make Your Own Christmas STEM Toys

Take two sponges and cut them down their long side on an angle so that they fit together to form the apex of a roof. Fix them together with cocktail sticks, put on the top of your structure and fix into place with more cocktail sticks. You should now have a house shape made of sponges. Put your house onto a plate.

If your house is a bit wobbly, you can secure it using a glue gun or some craft glue. If you have used glue, allow time for the glue to dry and set before you move on to the next stage.

Next, you need to cover the house with seeds. You can use mustard or cress but
there are many fast sprouting seeds, so the choice is yours. We chose cress.

Crafts: Make Your Own Christmas STEM Toys

Dab some water onto the roof of your house and spread the seeds onto the roof.
Pour a little water onto the plate so the sponge base can soak it up. Check the
sponge is nice and moist. Then sprinkle the seeds onto the base.

Leave your house in a warm, bright spot for the seeds to germinate. Spray the house with water using a spray bottle each day, and pour a little water over the house if it feels dry. In a few days the seeds should start to sprout, in a week they should be thriving.

Crafts: Make Your Own Christmas STEM Toys

It’s so easy and lots of fun to make too!

 Disclosure: We were sent a shopping voucher to buy the materials for this craft.